CHICAGO (CBS) — Tuesday marked the first step in a crackdown on the abuse of disability parking placards.
It will continue through the end of the year, when a new law takes effect, making it tougher to qualify for special privileges for disabled drivers.
CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine went looking for those who use and abuse those placards.
He found plenty of problems.
There were cars in specially-marked disabled parking zones, but also taking up an incredible number of spaces where people should be paying to park.
City workers hit the streets on Tuesday morning, placing envelopes which look like parking tickets on cars with disability placards.
They’re actually notices. They warn drivers that, starting Jan. 1, the only people who’ll be able to park for free in these metered zones are those who are physically unable to reach the meter boxes.
“We’ve seen an escalation of abuse,” said Karen Tamley, the city’s disabilities commissioner.
There are currently 715,000 disability placards issued statewide: Nearly 1 for every 10 drivers.
There are so many of them being used in the City of Chicago, that they’re crowding out paying parkers in meter zones, and costing taxpayers millions.
For example, a metered parking zone on Wabash Avenue had spots for four cars.
All four vehicles had disabled parking placards, meaning those drivers didn’t have to pay the metered fare.
Around the corner, people got out of cars bearing those placards. One woman who said she had eight electrodes in her back.
Then, carrying two bags, she rushed into a nearby building.
Later, two more women exited a car with a placard and strolled toward Michigan Avenue.
Another disabled parker literally ran to her office after demanding what right we had to take her picture.
“It’s frustrating to see abuse. It is,” said Tamley. “When someone is misusing a placard, it’s just wrong, and it hurts all of the community.
We recently spent some time with the secretary of state’s enforcement team, led by Bill Bogdan.
They spotted one woman, parking a van with a disability placard, issued to her employer.
It is impossible to know just how many of the people who use the placards are really disabled.
The new law may change things, but it sure looks like up to now, scamming the system was as easy as getting a doctor’s note to prove a sick day.